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The Detroit History Podcast

Season Four is Here.Welcome to The Detroit History Podcast. In our fourth season, we’ll explore The Scene, which had an outsized impact on Motor City culture as the signature show on Detroit’s only African-American owned television station; explore the construction of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel 90 years ago; study the life of a 19th century Michigan lumber baron as we look for ghosts in The Whitney restaurant. And we’ll tell you about the Nike Missiles that were stationed around metro Detroit at the height of the Cold War.

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Season 3, Episode 2- How WABX Radio and Plum Street Put the Counter in Counter-Culture

In the late 60s, a thunderously enduring upheaval occurred in the musical and cultural landscape. Young Americans, knowingly or not, were overdue for something other than Top 40 music and crewcuts. The Detroit radio station WABX, ignoring old norms of pop music content and airing songs that lasted seven minutes or more, was the crucible for what became known as "progressive rock" programming. Down the street, launched on an even smaller budget, a three-block stretch of Plum Street became Detroit's short-lived version of Haight-Ashbury. As the nation entered the 1970s, Detroit was already there. The Detroit History Podcast takes a look at the people who made it happen. 


1 Jun 2020

Rank #1

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Season 2, Episode 10- How The Klan Almost Elected A Mayor

Detroit was becoming an eclectic mix of cultures during the 1920s -- African-Americans from the south, immigrants from southern Europe, and a growing Catholic population. The Ku Klux Klan exploited the fear of outsiders and almost elected a Detroit lawyer named Charles Bowles during that decade. He ran again and won the Detroit mayoral seat in 1929, but as gang violence climaxed with the assassination of a popular radio commentator, his promise of law and order was not delivered. He would be recalled from office. We'll explain, with help from Michael Placco, of Macomb Community College, and Kenneth Shepherd, of Henry Ford College.


23 Apr 2019

Rank #2

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Episode 5- Detroit Crashes, The Motor City During The Great Depression

It was one of the city's darkest moments and the panic would shortly spread across the country. Michigan Governor William Comstock closed Detroit's banks on Valentine's Day, 1933. Henry Ford was asked to bail out the banks, Ford said he thought the crash would have to come: "the general effect would be that everyone would have to get to work a little sooner; that it might be a very good thing."


19 Feb 2018

Rank #3

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Season 3, Episode 1- How The Spotlight Found Coleman Young

If anybody was taking bets in the early 1960s, Coleman A. Young would have been a true longshot for getting himself elected to just about anything. He held any number of jobs from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, and ran unsuccessfully for public office on three occasions. But his fortunes changed. His dogged determination, refusal to bow to a House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt, and a remarkable primary victory in 1973 made Detroit mayoral history. We explore his ride to the mayor’s office, with former Channel 2 reporter Al Allen, Detroit mayoral candidate John Mogk, and others.


26 May 2020

Rank #4

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Episode 3- It's Just The Kind Of Thing Detroit Could Do

This edition of the Detroit History Podcast tells the story of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's amazing leap in the 1920s, from B-list band to Carnegie Hall in 10 years. Conductor Ossip Gabrilowitsch directed the effort..The players in this drama include Mark Twain, Horace Dodge, Pope Pius XII. And, oh, Orchestra Hall went up in less than five months. 


8 Jan 2018

Rank #5

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Episode 4- Scratch Glass and Turn Blue: The Making of The Ghoul

This job no longer exists: the television horror movie host. They were local celebrities, and pillars of local pop culture. Here in Detroit, we had Sir Graves Ghastly and Morgus, among others. In our upcoming episode, The Detroit History Podcast interviews Ron Sweed (The Ghoul), who explains how The Ghoul came to be. And, why the firecrackers? He used to blow up everything from toys to pierogies. 


22 Jan 2018

Rank #6

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Season 2, Episode 1- Henry Ford's Anti-Semitism

Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent published a series of anti-Semitic articles in the 1920s. They gained wide traction, were translated into several languages and gathered in a four-volume series, The International Jew. Nearly 100 years later, The Dearborn Historian, an obscure quarterly publication, released a story examining this anti-Semitic propaganda. Dearborn's mayor mothballed the issue, and Historian's editor Bill McGraw was informed that his services were no longer needed. In this episode of The Detroit History Podcast, we talk with McGraw, University of Michigan-Dearborn Professor Ron Stockton, and Mike Smith, principal archivist at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library and an archivist with Detroit's Jewish News, about Henry Ford's anti-Semitism and the controversy surrounding The Dearborn Historian's issue.


11 Feb 2019

Rank #7

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Season 2, Episode 8- General Motors in the 1920s: How A Struggling Company Became the Chrome Colossus

In 1920, General Motors was a company in trouble. Its founder was fired- for a second time. Henry Ford was eating G.M.'s lunch with his Model T. But a decade later, G.M. had revamped itself into the model of a big business, and would remain so for decades, largely following the same playbook written by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. in the 1920s. We'll follow its resurgence with help from Paul Lienert, a veteran auto writer and Detroit correspondent for Reuters.


9 Apr 2019

Rank #8

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Season 2, Episode 9- The Legend Of The Nain Rouge

There must be some reason behind Detroit's bad luck in the last three-plus centuries. We have the explanation: Du Nain Rouge in French, or the Red Dwarf in English. Legend has it the creature has been spotted whenever something really awful happens. And now, some fun-loving creative types in this city have turned it into a Mardi Gras-like celebration. We talk with Francis Grunow, co-founder of Marche Du Nain Rouge; and Janet Langlois, a retired folklore expert with Wayne State University's English Department.


16 Apr 2019

Rank #9

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Season 2, Episode 4- 1943, Detroit's Forgotten Riot

For two days in 1943, Detroit erupted into a flat-out race war. Thirty-four people died as whites and African-Americans battled each other in the streets. People were ripped from street cars and beaten senseless. Of the 25 deceased African-Americans, 17 were killed by police.  It ended only as the U.S. Army came in with rifles and bayonets. Two historians, Thomas Klug and Jamon Jordan, discuss the historic event. A young NAACP lawyer by the name of Thurgood Marshall arrived here within days to investigate the catastrophe. He filed a report. Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer reads Marshall’s own words. And we hear from the late Bill Bonds, who tells us (in an interview recorded eight years ago) what he witnessed firsthand.


4 Mar 2019

Rank #10

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Season 2, Episode 2- Remembering The Anchor, Detroit's Most Famous Newspaper Bar

The Anchor Bar, situated on the western end of downtown Detroit, was once one of the country's best-known newspaper bars. As one of the city's most notorious watering holes, it was also the site of a federal raid because the feds thought one of its patrons was running a $15 million-a-year bookie operation (uh, it did have four telephones). After 60 years, the place has just changed ownership. We look at the bar's history. We talk with Vaughn Derderian, son of Leo Derderian, who created the place's mystique; former Detroit News columnist Pete Waldmeir; Berl Falbaum, who wrote a book about the place; and Julie Altesleben, a Detroit News copy editor/page designer, who brings us into the 21st century. Warning: Explicit Language, F Bombs Galore.


17 Feb 2019

Rank #11

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Episode 10- The 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers

In the season finale of The Detroit History Podcast, we partnered with The Detroit Historical Museum to talk about the 1968 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Detroit Tigers had Denny McLain, with his 31 victories that season, an accomplishment that will probably never be equaled. The Cardinals had Bob Gibson, who finished the season with a 1.12 ERA. Set against the backdrop of a horrific year, you'll hear Mickey Lolich and Willie Horton talk about the storybook finish.


30 Apr 2018

Rank #12

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Season 2, Episode 6- The 1957 NFL Champion Detroit Lions

It's been more than 60 years since the Detroit Lions won an NFL Championship. In the 50s, the Lions were one of the most dominant dynasties in the league, winning three championships in six years. It was a season of comebacks with their coach quitting weeks before the season and star QB Bobby Layne going down with a broken ankle. Their backup QB Tobin Rote would have to put the offense on his back, and he did: as they would go on to complete one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history against the 49ers before they trounced the Cleveland Browns in the championship game. We interview hall of fame linebacker Joe Schmidt, as well as Steve Junker, the rookie tight end who scored two touchdown's in the championship game. We also talk with Lions beat writer Dave Birkett from the Detroit Free Press, and MSU professor Joanne Gerstner. Football analyst Jim Brandstatter takes us through the pages of Sports Illustrated and the Detroit newspapers from that year. 


24 Mar 2019

Rank #13

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Episode 8- The History Of Arab Immigration In Dearborn

Metro Detroit boasts the largest local concentration of Arabs in North America, many of which settled in Dearborn. We trace that migration back more than a century. We follow how Ford's $5 day brought many immigrants here, to how chaos in the Middle East drove many families out of their country and to southeast Michigan. Special thanks to the Arab American National Museum for its contributions. 


26 Mar 2018

Rank #14

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Episode 9- The Birth And Growth Of Detroit Techno

If Detroit was a sound, what would that sound be? Although some would say Motown, others say that sound would be Techno music. In this episode of The Detroit History Podcast we explain the birth of Techno in the 1980s, why its popular around the world -- particularly Berlin... and why it's as relevant now as it was when it came to the world's attention three decades ago. We also talk about how three guys from Belleville started this musical revolution. Music by Cybotron, Inner City, Global Logic, and Underground Resistance.


9 Apr 2018

Rank #15